Sunday, May 04, 2014

PHOTOGRAPHY: Guram Tikanadze Exhibition - TBC Art Gallery, Tbilisi

Guram Tikanadze, 1933-1963

The photographer and mountain-climber, G. Tikanadze tragically perished in 1963 while descending from Shkhara in Svaneti.

During the thirty years of his life he was managed do a lot. He made a success in his favourite trade. He took up photography from childhood, under the tutorship of the famous photographers Niko Sagaradze and Sergo Akhvlediani at the Pioneer's Palace. As a university student he became keen on mountain-climbing. In 1959 he started work as a photocorrespondent for the journal "Drosha", in 1962 he was appointed as a chairman of the Tbilisi photo-section of the association of Georgian Journalists. G. Tikanadze's creative work combined publicistic genre with poetic thinking. His pictures were published in Poland, Cheskoslovakia, Germany, he participated in international exhibitions.

Guram Tikanadze's early death deprived Georgian community of a talented photographer entering creative maturity, whose exquisite taste and skill were generally recognized.

“A fine fellow's name is a flare”(

“The flash light that Guram had presented to me is still giving out light reaching the other bank of the Mtkvari River… But the traces of his footsteps are no longer to be seen… Under dim light I am trying to find Guram's footprints but all in vain… A man's heart is definitely not like sand brought by the wind. It is more like a vessel storing inside everything until it gets carried away by floods ….. Even now when I recall my young friend, I bend my steps towards the Mtkvari and watch its flowing waves excitedly… Here is my “Saguramo”, and whenever I notice a deer on a sandy riverbank leaving its track on the sand, memories of Guram always come to my mind.”

From the Deer's Trace by Levan Gotua

This year in September, Guram Tikanadze would have turned seventy… There are people who are always in haste. They always hurry but, most importantly, they manage to do everything in a relatively short time. It is strange but frequently this rapidity carries a seal of fatality, as if destiny hastens them to do as much as possible in their youth. And it was under such an accelerated pace that Guram lived…

Nature endowed this young man, distinguished by his infinite energy, versatile talents, crystal honesty and love for his homeland, with an impressive appearance: “His figure resembled a specimen of art - a powerful physique, with pure blue eyes on an elongated face, an antique nose and soft skin, somewhat unexpected on the face of such a manly fellow,” writes Sargis Tsaishvili. “The laughter bursting out from his heart would immediately make you feel his moral purity. He had an infinite faith in men and he always created an atmosphere of warmth and cordiality around him. Perhaps that is why upon first acquaintance he immediately won confidence and sympathy.”

In his student years he became interested in boxing and mountaineering and in 1952 he passed the first-class sport norms. In 1954 he became an instructor of mountaineering and tackled several difficult ascents on the Caucasus and Pamirs. Mountains became an integral part of his life, the subject of his love and his destiny. In an essay “Defeated Giants” Guram Tikanadze writes: “People often ask us, mountaineers, why we are so keen about mountains. We think such a question is out of place and often leave it unaddressed. Now, for the sake of explanation I shall resort to certain experiences. We don't talk with the mountains and don't communicate our love in words. We know very well that here danger is waiting for us under every stone and in every snowflake. Overhanging clouds spread thunderstorms and snow over the mountain slopes and the burning sun alerts the mountain ranges with falling stones and a multitude of avalanches. There is constantly something new, there's always motion and cheerfulness. We find a common language more with mountains and ice than with lowlands and sea.”

They used to say that those who wanted to see strength, beauty and courage should have watched Guram Tikanadze in the mountains where, as distinct from others, he had to drag photo-cinema equipment (not many people know what each additional gram means for a mountaineer) and overcome additional complexities. He would leave the group behind or would follow an unbeaten track or at times would risk his life for the sake of a good shot. He never asked for a privilege.

He was in the seventh grade when he became interested in photography and published his first shot “Christmas fair in Tbilisi” in 1950 when he was still at school.

Later he debated whether he should follow the career of a geologist, go in for press photography, or become a cameraman. “I am amazed… I let everything go with the flow. I feel the stream will bring me to photo reporting…”

In Georgia the art of photography has deeply rooted traditions. Remarkable photographs of Alexandre Ermakov, Engel, Vittorio Sela, Alexandre Roininshvili and others depicting the recent past of Georgia, today represent an invaluable treasure, not only for the funds of the museums and archives where they are kept, but also for every Georgian.

In the fifties, however, when Guram Tikanadze took an interest in photography, this art form was in the background in our country. Guram was one of the first who broke away and introduced a sharp topic into the cadre. He turned the photography business into art, bringing it close to painting. Along with the recording of actual events, Guram Tikanadze's pictures have purely scientific, historical and ethnographic implications. This is an artistically depicted photo-chronicle of Georgia of the fifties and sixties, with its people. “It seemed as if he was looking at the world with three eyes but all three were focused on one thing. And this was his homeland and his people,” writes Kote Javakhishvili.

From the fifties onwards Guram Tikanadze regularly published his pictures in the republican, union and foreign press. He took part in photography contests and exhibitions held at various times. “You are a real poet. I am so sorry that I had no opportunity of knowing you earlier,” a Czech writer said after one of the exhibitions and perhaps that is why Georgian, German, Czech, Polish and Italian magazines and newspapers selected him as their reporter.

“But, your greatest and kindest gift was the skill and perception of friendship,” says Levan Gotua. “You were born for friendship and that is why being a single child you had a great many friends and brothers.” It was the gift of infinite love that he gave out so generously. His contemporaries note a rare skill of his: the ability easily to become a close friend of people, to take their joys or misfortunes close to his heart, sympathize and lend a helping hand whenever he was able to do so and support a good cause.

Very often people have amazing premonitions. We know several artists who have predicted their own death. Such is Guram's picture: “Falling from the Ailama Ridge”, as well as the last entry made by him in his notebook in 1961: “Jumber, Kukho and Iliko, It's something terrible! Mountaineering is impossible without sacrifice…”

He perished on August 27, 1963 when descending the mountain Shkhara…

At exhibitions, in the press and other publications we often come across Guram Tikanadze's pictures, which have become classics of photography. Today they are as relevant as they were 40 years ago.

It is a long time since unknown pictures from his album have been published…

This year on September 12 Guram Tikanadze would have turned seventy…

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